Mount Zion: A Monument of Ancient DaysOnce a vital part of the ancient city of Jerusalem, Mount Zion is now located just outside the Old City walls.
Legend speculates that when Suleiman the Magnificent, one of the longest-reigning rulers of the Ottoman Empire—rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in the sixteenth century, his architects failed to include Mount Zion within the city limits. The reason that is given is that they considered the task of extending the wall that far to be too time-consuming.
But Suleiman would not accept excuses, and according to legend, the sultan had his own architects decapitated and buried at the entrance of Jaffa Gate. To this day, the two graves still lie conspicuously even amid the hubbub of the Jaffa Gate shopping drag, a shadowy reminder of age-old violence.
Holy Sites on Mount Zion
King David’s Tomb has been a point of contention among Christians, Muslims and Jews for hundreds of years. The tradition that King David was buried on Mount Zion is about a thousand years old; originally it was believed that David was buried on the eastern hill in the area that is now referred to as the City of David.
In the 12th century, Crusaders built a church near David’s Tomb, which was later followed by a Franciscan monastery in 1335.
The tomb came under Muslim control in 1524, when Suleiman the Magnificent declared it a site unworthy of “infidels,” i.e., non-Muslims. The church was shut down and the tomb room was converted into a small mosque. The site was recaptured from the Muslims by the Jews in 1948.
Just above David’s Tomb is a Christian site: The Last Supper Room, where the eponymous event is believed to have occurred. Some Christians believe that this is where the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost.
Once the site of a Byzantine church, the Last Supper Room was converted into a mosque at the same time as the conversion of David’s Tomb.
The most recent addition to the holy sites on Mount Zion is the Dormition Abbey, which honors the Virgin Mary and was built in the early 20th century by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. This palatial structure now dominates every view of Mount Zion, its turrets a majestic contrast to the sky.
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